Sewing Terms

As sewing is an essential skill in making your own #costumes & #cosplays, there are terms used specifically for sewing that novices may not be familiar with. Here are some of them.

We have broken up the terms into 3 categories:

  • Fabric terms.
  • Stitching terms.
  • Garment terms.

Fabric Terms

  • Grain: this a reference to an orientation with respect to the warp and weft threads. Hence, only woven fabrics has grains. Fabrics such as leather, felt and interfacing don’t have grains because they’re not woven. There are three named grains:
    • Bias (or Bias Grain): this is the orientation on a woven fabric that is 45 degrees to both the warp and weft threads. Thus, every woven fabric has two bias directions that are perpendicular to each other. Woven fabric is more elastic as well as more fluid in the bias direction, compared to the straight grain and crossgrain.bias_28textile29
    • Crossgrain: this is the orientation that runs perpendicular to the selvage and parallel to the weft threads. The crossgrain generally has more stretch than the straight grain since the weft threads are generally looser than the warp during weaving.
    • Straight Grain: the orientation that is parallel with the warp threads and the selvage. The straight grain typically has less stretch than the crossgrain since the warp threads will be pulled tighter than the weft during weaving. Most garments are cut with the straight grain oriented top to bottom.
  • Grain Line: an imaginary line running lengthwise on the fabric, always parallel to the selvage. The grain line is marked on pattern pieces with a straight line, usually with arrows at either end, and marked as “grain line” or “straight grain.”
  • Nap: the raised (fuzzy) surface on certain kinds of fabric, such as velvet or moleskin. Nap can refer additionally to other surfaces that look like the surface of a napped cloth, such as the surface of a felt or beaver hat.
  • Right Side: side of the fabric designed to be on the outside of the garment. Sewing directions usually instruct to put right sides together and stitch, resulting in fabric seamed together with the seam allowances on the inside of the garment.
  • Selvage: this is a “self-finished” edge of a fabric. “Self-finished” means that the edge does not require additional finishing work (such as a hem or bias tape) to prevent fraying.
    • In woven fabric, selvages are the edges that run parallel to the warp that are created by the weft thread looping back at the end of each row.
    • In knitted fabric, selvages are the unfinished yet structurally sound edges that were neither cast on nor bound off.
  • Warp and Weft: these are the two types of threads (or yarns) used to weave fabric. Warp threads are held stationary in tension on a frame or loom, while weft is the transverse thread that is drawn through and inserted under-and-over the warp. A single thread of the weft crossing the warp is called a pick, while an individual warp thread is called a warp end or end.warp_and_weft
  • Wrong Side: side of the fabric intended to be on the inside of the garment. On some fabrics it is apparent which is the wrong or right side, such as on prints, but on other fabrics both sides can look the same.
  • Yardage: a length of fabric. Patterns will indicate required yardage needed for a garment in a specific size, detailing how much yardage is needed.

Stitching Terms

  • Basting: this refers to temporary, long-running stitches (made by machine or by hand) that holds fabric together before final, permanent stitching is used.
  • Clipping: snips made in the seam allowance, up to but not through the stitching, to allow the fabric to open around curves or to lay flat.
  • Edge Stitch: a line of stitching very close to a seam or garment edge.
  • French Seam: a finished seam in which the seam is initially stitched with wrong sides together, then flipped inside and stitched right sides together. This encloses the seam allowance, creating a clean finish on the inside of the garment.
  • Gathering: a process of taking up a length of fabric in order to seam it to a shorter piece of fabric.
  • Grading: there are 2 definitions:
    • After a seam is stitched, the two layers are trimmed to a different width in order to prevent a ridge showing on the outside of the garment seam.
    • It may also refer to the process of converting a pattern size to a larger or smaller size.
  • Seam:  the join where two or more layers of fabric, leather, or other materials are held together with stitches.
  • Seam Allowance: the distance from the edge of the cut fabric piece to the stitching, which can vary according to the pattern and fabric.
  • Stay Stitch: a line of machine stitches on or near the seam, stitched on a single layer of fabric, used to stabilize a cut edge.
  • Stitch Length: the length of a single stitch, which affects the amount of fabric moved through the machine per stitch. Fewer stitches per inch means each stitch is longer, up to and including basting stitches.
  • Topstitch: a row of stitches seen on the outside of a garment that can be decorative and also add strength and wearability to an item.
  • Under Stitch: a row of stitching that attaches the facing to the seam allowance on the inside of the garment.

Garment Terms

  • Dart: a fold (a tuck coming to a point) and sewn into fabric to take in ease and provide shape to a garment, especially for a woman’s bust. Darts are used in all sorts of clothing to tailor the garment to the wearer’s shape, or to make an innovative shape in the garment.
  • Ease: the amount of room a garment allows the wearer beyond the measurements of their body.
  • Facing: a small piece of fabric, separate or a part of the fabric itself, used to finish the fabric edges. Facing makes a garment look professionally finished with the seams well hidden inside the folds of the facing. It’s mostly used to finish the edges in necklines, armholes, hems and openings. They’re also used in other sewn items, such as quilts and curtain hems.
  • Hem: a garment finishing method in which the edge of a piece of fabric is folded narrowly and sewn to prevent fraying.
  • Interfacing: a layer of of fabric used to stabilize the fashion fabric in a garment. Interfacing can be woven or non-woven, fusible or sew in.

References

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Several Glove Making Tutorials

Last September we posted a tutorial showing one simple way to make #gloves. We wanted to share several more tutorials that various #cosplayers have shared on #YouTube to help you decide what might be the best way for you to make gloves.

These tutorials are similar, but vary in whether the gloves are fingerless or not, glove length along the arm, materials used and methods used. In each tutorial, stretch fabric (usually 4-way stretch fabrics) are used.

First, we have this simple fingerless glove design using stretch fabric as posted by Adonis Cosplay in 2016:

Miso Cosplay shared this quick and easy tutorial in 2015 to make gloves that involves separate tracing paper, as well as pointing out that it’s a good idea to trim on the inside after sewing on the tips of the fingers and in the groves between fingers so that the gloves fit well:

You can also makes gloves from sleeves of an existing shirt or top. Bob Bee shows such a method using an old sweatshirt top. The advantage with this is that you essentially have pre-cuffs that you won’t have to remake, which can be a time-saver:

This is a more elaborate glove making tutorial that creates elbow-length gloves. It was made by Sanzu Fabrications in 2017 and includes a segment on dying the fabric after the gloves have been sewn:

Our last glove tutorial was made by Daniel Siebert. He uses 2 different colors of fabrics so that he has gloves that are blue on one side and white on the other side. The method he used included using tear-away paper for tracing the pattern:

We hope that you found these tutorials useful. If you know of a different way to make gloves, we’d love to hear how you made them.

References:

Introduction to Fabrics

While #sewing is an important rudimentary #cosplay & #costuming skill, so is knowing a few things about #fabrics, which have different qualities depending upon the materials used & how they were manufactured.

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1. Fabric Basics

What is a fabric? A fabric (which may also be called a textile or cloth) is a flexible material comprised of a series of interconnected fibers. The three most distinguishing features of a fabric are the type of fibers being used, how the fibers were interconnect during the manufacturing process and the overall fabric weight.

Let’s look at fibers and the manufacturing processes first.

1.1 Fibers

Fibers fall under one of two main types: natural or synthetic. These have different properties that can be divided into pros & cons, which we have listed in the following table.

Natural Fibers

Synthetic Fibers

Composition

Come primarily from plants or animals. Created in a laboratory. Usually a petroleum product.

Pros

  • Easy to dye.
  • Absorbant.
  • Breathable.
  • Strong.
  • Wrinkle-resistant.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • Plant fibers wrinkle easily.
  • Animal fibers are expensive.
  • Not very breathable.
  • Difficult to dye.

Fabrics can also be made from minerals, but since these are not common in clothing or costuming, we’ll leave that to you to research on your own if you choose to do so.

The most common fiber types are listed below:

Fiber Category

Fiber Types (& their sources)

Animal

  • Wool (sheep’s hair)
  • Silk (silk worm’s unwound cocoon)
  • Cashmere (Indian cashmere goat)
  • Angora (Angora rabbit)

Plant

  • Cotton (cotton plant)
  • Linen (flax, a.k.a., linseed)
  • Rayon (wood pulp)
  • Acetate (wood pulp)
  • Hemp (hemp fibers)

Synthetic

  • Nylon (petroleum)
  • Acrylic (petroleum & natural gas)
  • Polyester (petroleum & coal)
  • Spandex (petroleum)
  • Kevlar (aramids)
  • Nomex (aramids)

1.2 Manufacturing Processes

Of the various ways fabrics can be manufactured, the two most common are woven fabrics and knitted fabrics, which are compared in the following table:

Woven Fabrics

Knitted Fabrics

Construction

Constructed by interlacing a set of longer threads (called the warp) with a set of crossing fibers (called the weft) on a frame known as a loom.

Constructed by repeatedly interlacing loops made from a single, long fiber together in multiple rows.

Qualities

  • Minimal stretch.
  • Strong
  • Won’t snag.
  • Easier for beginners to sew.
  • Available in both 2-way & 4-way stretch.
  • Not as strong.
  • Susceptible to snagging.
  • More difficult for beginners to sew.

2. Fabric Weight

The type of fibers, the manufacturing process & how closely packed the fibers are determine a fabric’s weight. Fabric weight is measured as ounces per square yard (oz/yd²) or grams per square meter (GSM). The lighter a fabric is, the more flowing it will be, but it will also the typically be less durable. The heavier a fabric is, the more stiff and durable it will be. Also, the heavier the fabric is, the thicker it may also be depending upon the type of fiber used.

GSM

Fabrics

Lightweight

1 – 150 GSM

0 – 4.4 oz/yd²

  • Organza
  • Chiffon
  • Voile
  • Taffeta
  • Single Jersey
  • Spandex

Medium Weight

150 – 350 GSM

4.4 – 10 oz/yd²

  • Velvet
  • Cambric
  • Sateen
  • Chambray
  • Interlock Jersey

Heavyweight

350+ GSM

10+ oz/yd²

  • Canvas
  • Denim
  • Hessian / Burlap
  • Poplin / Broadcloth

3. Putting It All Together

Having listed the basics about fiber types, manufacturing processes & weights, here’s a more detailed list about each fabric listed above.

3.1 Lightweight Fabrics

Fabric

Fiber Type(s) & Manufacturing Process

Typical Uses

Organza

Woven silk, nylon or polyester
  • Bridal wear
  • Evening wear

Chiffon

Woven silk, nylon or polyester

  • Evening wear
  • Lingerie
  • Blouses
  • Scarves

Voile

Woven cotton, cotton/linen blend or cotton/polyester blend

  • Window treatments
  • Mosquito nets

Taffeta

Woven silk or rayon

  • Ball gowns
  • Wedding dresses
  • Curtains
  • Wall coverings

Single Jersey

Knitted wool, cotton, synthetic fabrics or cotton/synthetic blend

  • T-shirts

Spandex

Knitted spandex or spandex/cotton, spandex/polyester, or other spandex blend

  • Compression clothing
  • Super-hero costumes
  • Tights
  • Zentai
  • Wrestling singlets
  • Active wear
  • Underwear

3.2 Medium Weight Fabrics

Fabric

Fiber Type(s) & Manufacturing Process

Typical Uses

Velvet

Woven tufted rayon/silk blend, silk (rare), cotton (less luxurious), polyester, nylon, acetate or other fibers & blends.
  • Ecclesiastical vestments
  • Royal & state robes
  • Wall hangings

Cambric

Woven linen or cotton

  • Linens
  • Shirts
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Ruffs
  • Lace
  • Needlework

Sateen

Woven cotton, cotton/linen blend or cotton/polyester blend

  • Window treatments
  • Mosquito nets

Chambray

Woven cotton, similar to denim but lighter & with the white weft visible making it lighter in color.

  • Dresses
  • Pants
  • Shirts
  • Sneakers

Interlock Jersey

Knitted wool, cotton, synthetic fabrics or cotton/synthetic blend; similar to single jersey but both sides are identical and it’s thicker

  • Higher end t-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Camisoles
  • Bridal wear
  • Receiving blankets
  • Dresses
  • Baby’s layette items

3.3 Heavyweight Fabrics

 

Fabric

Fiber Type(s) & Manufacturing Process

Typical Uses

Canvas

Woven cotton, linen or hemp.
  • Handbags
  • Backpacks
  • Electronic device cases
  • Shoes
  • Artist medium

Denim

Woven cotton

  • Blue jeans
  • Shirts
  • Jackets
  • Work clothes
  • Shoes
  • Upholstry
  • Lampshades
  • More

Hessian / Burlap

Woven jute or sisal fibers blended with other vegetable fibers

  • Rope
  • Bags
  • Gunny sacks
  • Rugs
  • Ghillie suits
  • Sand bags

Poplin / Broadcloath

Woven wool, cotton, silk, polyester or a blend of these

  • Dresses
  • Shirts
  • Upholstery

4. Selecting the Right Fabric(s) for a Costume

The first thing you’ll want to ask yourself is where you plan to wear the costume. If you’re only planning to wear the costume on a cool Halloween evening, then going with heavier / less breathable fabrics might be your better option for staying warm.

If you’re planning to wear the costume primarily at comic or anime conventions, then you’ll want to stick to the most breathable fabrics so that you stay cool and comfortable. After that, it also depends on what type of garment(s) you need to make:

  • Pants: linen or denim
  • Shirts & blouses: cotton voile; rayon challis; double gauze; knit; silk; chambray; cotton lawn or linen
  • Skirts: cotton lawn; rayon challis; denim; knit or linen
  • Dresses: cotton voile; cotton lawn; rayon challis; double gauze; knit; silk; satin or linen
  • Superhero costumes: spandex

If you need to dye a fabric, then you definitely want to use a fabric that is made primarily from natural fibers. Do you need to give the fabric a weathered or tattered look, then you’ll probably want to stick to cotton-based fabrics. Other considerations, such as the sewing pattern you’re using for the garment, can also impact the type of fabric to be used, including any color pattern that the fabric has.

References:

Introduction to Sewing

Probably one of the most rudimentary skills for #cosplay & #costuming is #sewing. For those who haven’t sewn anything before, sewing may seem intimidating, but once you know the basics, you’ll feel increasingly more comfortable with sewing and want to take on increasingly complex projects.

One question that may come up is why is it important to learn how to sew at all? Learning how to make your own #costumes will be far less costly in the long run than paying others to make things for you. That by far is probably one of the best reasons to learn how to sew. Next, if you’ve tended to rely on alternative methods for attaching fabric (like staples, hot glue or some other method), sewing will provide the best overall result and will be the strongest result. Even if you’re planning to wear armor, sewing can be invaluable in attaching velcro to strapping that you’ll most likely be using, especially elastic strapping, which needs to be very securely attached to velcro.

There are essentially two ways to sew: by hand and by machine. Sewing by hand is a lot slower than sewing by machine, but there will be times that you’ll need to hand sew something because a machine can’t always be used in all situations. A good example when you can’t use a sewing machine is when you need to sew something onto the back of a glove or onto a sleeve or pant leg. In these situations, unless you want to remove existing seams so that a sewing machine can be used, the best option is to hand sew. Also, if you can’t afford to purchase a sewing machine, you can always hand sew.

Though using a sewing machine may also seem intimidating if you haven’t used one before, there are very good reasons why to use one: it’s a lot faster than hand sewing, it makes evenly-spaced stitches and all modern machines will have multiple types of stitching patterns. For sewing long seams along pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, capes, etc., your best option will be a sewing machine.

The following YouTube video from 2014 & made by MangoSirene is a great introduction to sewing: